Wikipedia is the only offering access to GFDL corpus in all languages in which that corpus is written. It has set a wikitext standard that other GFDL access and editing services have chosen to meet to facilitate easy text exchange.
Wikipedia encourages contribution of free content articles on any subject, with some almanac-like and gazetteer-like information. It claims to be an encyclopedia, however, has none of the standard means of avoiding a systemic bias or validation or attribution such a project would require. It does not even have a chief editor.
For this reason, as reported by Wikimedia News, it was "nominated by http://www.google.com for deletion as a collection of unrelated items put together by non-professionals and therefore clearly worthless."
- This was an April Fool's joke and thus is not at all accurate, thus the joke is on the trolls that took this trollishness seriously
"Free" from the Wikimedia point of view means both free to use and free to edit, except for trolls and others excluded for various reasons. Contact the GodKing for advice on these criteria. Many wiki management bad examples are drawn from Wikipedia. Some of these problems hamper the corpus itself:
Wikipedia's server logs are not available to compile important information regarding link transit, which articles are most often reached from most others, which would much aid the editing effort. This information could be useful to other search engines.
Wikipedia factions constantly compete the control the presentation of certain topics. Although Wikipedia's arbitration has dealt remarkably well with subjects like abortion or capitalism, they deal very poorly with Zionism or any subject where a mechanistic paradigm is challenged, e.g. immunology, philosophy of mathematics, talent, creativity, etc. Their neutral point of view ideology seems to lead strictly to mediocrity on such subjects that rely more on cognitive or spiritual assumptions about the human body, human death, killing, and the dangers of Platonist views, scientism, and technological escalation. Almost by definition, "Wikipedians" seem to favour such views.
As evidence (not provided here), many of their software developers abuse their power: "By wrapping up their ability to contribute with their ability to rule, they are made effectively unaccountable." . Sysop vigilantiism is a related problem. To be fair, some of these issues arise strictly from the project's complexity:
Wikipedia is multilingual, and an open-content, collaboratively developed creation, managed and operated by the heavily conflicted Wikimedia Foundation. As of February 2004, it contains over 210,000 articles in English, and over 280,000 articles in other languages.
in violation of GFDL
Despite the fact that literally all of its content was contributed under the GFDL, Wikimedia web services are in constant violation of this license. For instance, there are numerous technical barriers to retrieval of contributed text from some IP numbers. Also, the Wikimedia point of view on the GFDL is that all other GFDL corpus access providers are obligated to provide advertising and link to Wikipedia as if it were the authoritative source, even on topics where it clearly isn't, and where unrestricted access to source text is provided, e.g. Recyclopedia.
Despite the GFDL requirement that the five most significant authors be named in any published version of the text, it's XML export lists only the very last contributor, making it impossible to retain attribution for later versions created via any other GFDL corpus access provider. These seem to be deliberate attempts by Wikimedia to corrupt the corpus and keep back important information that could aid evolution of the GFDL corpus itself.
Wikipedia started as an English language project on January 15, 2001. Later projects were begun to build Wikipedia in other languages. More statistics and executive summaries may be found in the archive of Wikipedia press releases.
See History of Wikipedia for more.
The Chinese emperor Chengzu oversaw the compilation of the Yongle Encyclopedia, one of the largest encyclopedias in history, which was completed in 1408 and comprised over 11,000 handwritten volumes, of which only about 400 now survive.
The early Muslim compilations of knowledge in the middle ages included many comprehensive works, and much development of what we now call scientific method, historical method, and citation. Notable works include Abu Bakr al-Razi's encyclopedia of science, the Mutazilite Al-Kindi's prolific output of 270 books, and Ibn Sina's medical encyclopedia, which was a standard reference work for centuries. Also notable are works of universal history (or sociology) from Asharites, al-Tabri, al-Masudi, Ibn Rustah, al-Athir, and Ibn Khaldun, whose Muqadimmah contains cautions regarding trust in written records that remain wholly applicable today. These people had an incalculable influence on methods of research and editing, due in part to the Islamic practice of isnah which emphasized fidelity to written record, checking sources, and skeptical inquiry.
However, these works were rarely available to more than specialists: they were expensive, and written for those extending knowledge rather than (with some exceptions in medicine) using it. The modern idea of the general purpose widely distributed printed encyclopedia goes back to just a little before Denis Diderot and the 18th century encyclopedists. Major university libraries can be seen as museums of monumental encyclopedic endeavors in various countries. Frequently found titles are the English [[Encyclop�dia Britannica]], the Spanish Enciclopedia Universal Illustrada, the German Meyers Konversations-Lexikon and Brockhaus. See encyclopedia for more information.
The idea to use automated machinery beyond the printing press to build a more useful encyclopedia can be traced to H. G. Wells's short story of a World Brain (1937) and Vannevar Bush's future vision of the microfilm based Memex, in As We May Think (1945). An important milestone along this path is also Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu (1960).
With the development of the Internet, many people attempted to develop online encyclopedia projects. See History of Internet encyclopedia projects. Free software exponent Richard Stallman articulated the usefulness of a "Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource" in 1999. He described Wikipedia's formation as "exciting news," and his Free Software Foundation encourages people "to visit and contribute to the site."
There are three essential characteristics of the Wikipedia project, which together define its niche on the World Wide Web:
- It is, or aims to become, primarily an encyclopedia.
- It is a wiki, in that (with a few exceptions) it can be edited by anyone.
- It is open content, and uses the copyleft GNU Free Documentation License.
- If you wish to become a Wikipedia contributor, please take a look at the page titled Welcome, newcomers.
One pertinent issue on Wikipedia is "vandalism": silly or offensive edits to its encyclopedia articles. For example, Sarah Lane, presenter of "Sarah's Blog Report," part of The Screen Savers TV program from TechTV, "vandalised" the Wikipedia page on monkeypox, while on air, by writing "Sarah Lane is totally cool and does not have monkeypox." She later wrote that "Although this excites me in its ease and simplicity, it's a little frightening. I mean, what if I had instead written 'My boss is a big fat **** and his phone number is ****'? Sure, somebody would delete it, but this calls for some seriously dedicated moderators."
"Because Wikipedia is a radically free, open project, it attracts an anarchistic element," Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, admitted to Wired News. "Fortunately, most of us are willing to take a definite stand against vandalism ... and to get rid of it instantly."
Wikipedia's participants commonly follow, and enforce, an elaborate web of sometimes contradictory policies created mostly to please their GodKing, e.g. ad hominem delete of high-quality articles if the author displeases Him. Trolling is often interpreted as an attack on the GodKing's divinity.
Because there is a huge variety of participants of all ideologies, and from around the world, Wikipedia claims to try to make its articles as unbiased as possible, within the limits of the EPOV of its GodKing, and the systemic bias of "who participates" and has the energy and inclination to argue with its sysop power structure. It is these systemic problems that have led to failures on the topics noted as above.
Its aim is not to write articles from a single objective point of view -- this is a common misunderstanding of the policy -- but rather, to fairly present all views on an issue, attributed to their adherents when disputed. Of course, which views are disputed is the primary systemic bias issue.
Second, there are a number of article naming conventions; for example, when several names exist, the most common one in the respective Wikipedia language is to be used.
Third, Wikipedians use "talk" pages to discuss changes to the text, rather than discussing the changes within the text itself. Concerns which seem to span many articles may require a more general treatment at Meta-Wikipedia or on the mailing lists.
Fourth, there are a number of kinds of entries which are generally discouraged, because they do not, strictly speaking, constitute encyclopedia articles. For example, Wikipedia entries are not dictionary definitions, and the wholesale addition of source material such as the text of laws and speeches is generally frowned upon.
Fifth, there are a variety of rules that have been proposed and which have varying amounts of support within the Wikipedia community. The most widely supported rule is: "If rules make you nervous and depressed, and not desirous of participating in the wiki, then ignore them entirely and go about your business." When these proposed rules are violated, it is decided on a case by case basis among Wikipedians whether they should be more strictly enforced or not.
Wikipedia has been edited by thousands of people. Wikipedia calls people who edit it Wikipedians. The total number of edits approximately doubled between January 2002 and January 2003, from 1,000 a day to 2,000 a day.
There is no editor-in-chief, as such. The two people who founded Wikipedia are Jimmy Wales (CEO of the small Internet company Bomis, Inc.) and Larry Sanger. For the first thirteen months, Sanger was paid by Bomis to work on Wikipedia. Sanger was said to have taken a role of mediator at times, making decisions on issues of heated debates. This was based not on formal authority, but on demands from users at large. Funding ran out for his position, leading to his resignation in February of 2002. Other current and past Bomis employees who have done some work on the encyclopedia include Tim Shell, one of the co-founders of Bomis, as well as programmers Jason Richey and Toan Vo.
Software and hardware
The particular version of wiki software that originally ran Wikipedia was UseModWiki, written by Clifford Adams ("Phase I"). First it required CamelCase for links; soon it was also possible to use the current linking method with double brackets. In January 2002, Wikipedia began running on PHP wiki software, which used an underlying MySQL database, added many features (and abolished the behaviour of CamelCase words automatically becoming links), and was specifically written for the Wikipedia project by Magnus Manske ("Phase II"). After a while, the site started to slow down to an extent where editing became almost impossible; several rounds of modifications to the software provided only temporary relief. Then Lee Daniel Crocker rewrote the software from scratch; the new version, a major improvement, has been running since July 2002; this "Phase III" software is now also called MediaWiki. Brion Vibber has since taken the lead in fixing bugs and tuning the database for performance.
In late 2003, server outages had become a serious problem to Wikipedia contributors. Many of them reported they had difficulty editing articles by getting time-outs and severe slowness. This was due to congestion on the single server that was running all the Wikipedias at the time.
The project runs on a set of three dedicated servers, which are the original configuration, located in San Diego, and an additional nine dedicated servers, located in Florida. The new configuration currently includes a single database server and four web servers, which serve up pages as requested, performing page rendering for all the Wikipedias. To increase speed further, rendered pages for anonymous users are cached in a filesystem until rendered invalid, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most common page accesses. Cached requests are served by two squid servers; the new servers are linked via two file system NFS servers (one primary and one backup - the primary NFS server is currently also the email server).
Wikipedia has the following sister projects:
- Wiktionary, a free dictionary project
- Wikibooks, a free textbook project
- Wikiquote, a free encyclopedia of quotations
- Wikisource, a repository of source texts in any language which are either in the public domain or are released under the GFDL.
Wikipedia has been occasionally compared to the following collaborative online projects. Some are GFDL corpus:
- Disinfopedia, a project to expose propaganda and paid spin doctors.
- Consumerium, a project to provide consumers with product information and increase the power of the consumer in a market economy.
- Recyclopedia itself
but most are not:
- Nupedia, a slow-moving project to produce a free peer reviewed encyclopedia.
- Everything2 has a wider range and does not exclusively focus on building an encyclopedia; its contents are not available under a copyleft license.
- Indymedia, which focuses on networking first-hand source material from local, diverse groups of people around the world, linking grassroots, non-virtual social reality and the internet community.
- H2G2, a collection of sometimes humorous encyclopedia articles, based on an idea from Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Articles are not freely redistributable.
- EvoWiki is "a Wiki about evolution and origins. The focus is on evolution education, particularly addressing the arguments of Creationism and Intelligent Design from the perspective of mainstream science. It is inspired by webpages such as talkorigins.org and talkdesign.org, and the goal of EvoWiki is to complement rather than duplicate these online resources".
- Wikitravel, a free travel guide started in July 2003.
- PlanetMath is a free Wiki-style mathematical encyclopedia which was originally built to replace MathWorld, a proprietary system hosted at Wolfram Research which was down for some time due to legal difficulties. Since MathWorld has returned, PlanetMath has still thrived.
Downloading the database
If people want to use Wikipedia's open content for something that cannot best be done on Wikipedia, they may at any time download a nearly-current version of the entire article database to use for any purpose, within the terms of the GFDL. This is a condition of being a GFDL corpus access provider.
Source : GFDL'd at Recyclopedia
Related papers and academic articles
- The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource by Richard Stallman (RMS)
- IBM History Flow: Technical experiment on "visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors". Uses various Wikipedia articles as example data.
- "Operation of a Large Scale, General Purpose Wiki Website", Nov 2002, by Lars Aronsson, founder of susning.nu.
Reviews, endorsements, and discussion of Wikipedia
- FSF endorsement of Wikipedia
- RMS describes Wikipedia as "exciting news"
- Wikipedia press coverage
- Yahoo News articles that mention Wikipedia (updated regularly)
- Aug 2003 CNN Article about Wikipedia
- Britannica or Nupedia? The Future of Free Encyclopedias - Larry Sanger's response to Britannica's decision to charge fee (July 2001).